Implementing continuous improvement as a business

Disciplined Agile PMI

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In order to meet the changing demands of the market, successful organisations adopt a continuous-improvement mindset. But knowing exactly which strategies to deploy at the right time can be challenging for even the most established businesses.

The Disciplined Agile (DA) approach offers a customised approach to gaining true business agility — through freedom, not frameworks. Here’s how the DA toolkit can enable your company to remain agile, achieve better results, create a competitive advantage and attract top talent.

What is Disciplined Agile?

Rather than restricting your team to only a single way of working, Disciplined Agile instead takes a holistic approach. The DA toolkit is based on the belief that rigid frameworks hamper business agility, whereas freedom to choose the most applicable strategy makes an organisation truly agile.

“As a toolkit, Disciplined Agile is designed to help organisations optimise their ways of working in whatever agile methodology they may be leveraging within their teams,” says Michael DePrisco, Interim President and CEO at  Project Management Institute (PMI).

“DA helps leaders customise and tailor that methodology to each context. It allows individuals to optimise the outcomes and results they’re aiming to achieve, but more than that, it really helps accelerate an organisation’s opportunity to unlock enterprise agility.”

For most organisations, that ‘enterprise agility’ refers to moving fast, being adaptable, and having the capability to respond to change and uncertainty quickly. Every business experiments, and many times they fail. But true agility is being able to learn and continuously improve.

“DA is very much anchored in a team-focused approach to getting work done, as well as empowering the entire team to drive decision-making and better outcomes for the organisation,” DePrisco says.

Project Management Institute (PMI) is the world’s leading professional association for a growing global community of millions of project professionals and changemakers worldwide. Visit the website to find out more about how agile methodology can work in your business.

Defining your core tenets for continuous improvement

Perhaps one of the most valuable benefits of DA is how it enables organisations to think about what their teams need to truly optimise their outcomes. In other words, DA’s ultimate purpose is to support team leaders to identify where there are capability gaps. From there, the toolkit helps reveal the skills to fill those gaps.

DePrisco says that PMI has conducted extensive global research on which skills and capabilities will enable organisations to unlock enterprise agility. Those findings revealed some of the most important skills are:

  • Collaborative leadership
  • Empathy
  • Outcomes focused
  • Discipline
  • Prioritisation

“Being anchored in people and improvement as a core tenet of DA really allows both individuals and organisations to think differently about upskilling, and what capabilities will really drive value,” DePrisco says.

Leveraging the right skills

For continuous improvement to become embedded in an organisation, it goes beyond just the C-suite, management and team leaders. DePrisco says that the individuals must also be thinking about what they can add to their toolbelt, so that when presented with an organisational challenge, they can look at various options for solving it.

“There’s a lot of different methodologies, frameworks and approaches to getting work done,” he says. “So there’s a technical capability that organisations need to ensure their people have. But when I talk about those key skills, I don’t really focus on technical — I focus on what we call power skills. These are the human skills, the interpersonal skills, the soft skills.”

DePrisco says these are the skills that are instrumental in giving individuals influence, which allows them to drive better outcomes in their organisation.

“People ask me all the time, ‘What’s the single most important skill?’ And I always go to collaborative leadership. Now more than ever, with distributed teams having people working all over the world, it’s so critical to have skills that can bring people together. There needs to be that psychological safety, particularly in a virtual environment where it’s hard to engage the way you would in a face-to-face environment.”

“It’s making sure everyone’s heard. It’s respecting and appreciating diversity of opinion. It’s giving people permission to push back, to challenge and to leverage the best thinking of the group to get to the best answer.”

Continuous improvement starts from the top

Like any methodology, Disciplined Agile will only be successful if it gets buy-in from the entire business. And that starts at the top.

“Too often, the importance of training and upskilling dies on the vine because you don’t have that commitment from the top,” DePrisco says. “For example, when budgets get tight and there’s a sudden need to find dollars, organisations often pull money from their training budgets, which in today’s world really could be disastrous.”

It makes sense — smart businesses shouldn’t, and don’t, cut marketing dollars when their business is down. They invest more in their marketing efforts.

“When disruption hits and your business is enduring uncertainty and change, the last thing you want to do is lose good people. This is the time to double down on upskilling and reskilling. But you need that commitment starting from the top, and you need to take clear actions to ensure you’re providing the space and time for your people to develop.”

Read now: The future of agile: Introducing Disciplined Agile

Project Management Institute

Project Management Institute (PMI) is the world's leading professional association for a growing global community of millions of project professionals and changemakers worldwide. Building on a proud legacy dating to 1969, PMI is a “for-purpose” organisation working to advance careers, strengthen organisational success, and enable changemakers with new skills and ways of working to maximise their impact. PMI offerings include globally recognised standards, certifications, online courses, thought leadership, tools, digital publications, and communities.

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